MILWAUKEE -- This is not where the 2013 Brewers wanted to pick up play after the All-Star break.
They are in last place in the National League Central. They are clear sellers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They have, statistically, the worst starting rotation in the NL. They finished the first half without No. 3 hitter Ryan Braun (bereavement list), No. 4 hitter Aramis Ramirez (disabled list) and No. 5 hitter Corey Hart (out for the season), and they wonder what the immediate future holds for Braun as Major League Baseball concludes its investigation into Biogenesis.
Inside the clubhouse, what can the Brewers do besides play on?
"As far as the second half for us, I think we look at it as a chance to start over," said Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo. "Start with that first game back and just be more consistent."
Gallardo admits there are some challenges to the notion of starting over. How do the Brewers start over if they remain so banged up? How does a team get on a winning streak if some of its most proven players are at risk of being traded away?
Others need to step up, Gallardo said with a shrug.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who has filled in as the cleanup hitter with Ramirez sidelined by tendinitis in his left knee, agreed.
"It's tough to go to war when you don't have all your weapons," Lucroy said. "But the only thing we can do right now is keep working hard and keep playing hard. You can't feel sorry for yourself. You can't look at the big picture, not in the game of baseball.
"Yeah, we had a bad first half. It was terrible. But you know what? On a positive note, we can have a good second half."
|MVP: Carlos Gomez In a toss-up between Gomez and shortstop Jean Segura, Gomez gets the nod on his defense.|
|Cy Young: Kyle Lohse A prime example of why pitchers' win-loss records don't matter; Lohse has been as solid as advertised.|
|Rookie: Jim Henderson Logged 10 saves before ceding the job to Francisco Rodriguez.|
|Top reliever: Francisco Rodriguez Didn't sign until April or make it to the Majors until May, but has been the best arm in a very good bullpen.|
The Brewers' first half was not all bad. Their starting pitching has been wretched, but showed signs of improvement before the break, most notably right-hander Wily Peralta, whose hot streak included the team's first complete game in 2 1/2 years.
The brightest offensive star may have been Jean Segura, the centerpiece of last summer's Zack Greinke trade, who not only showed he could handle everyday play at shortstop, but led the NL in hitting for part of the first half. Segura made the All-Star team along with center fielder Carlos Gomez, who has been even better in 2013 after signing a three-year contract extension in Spring Training, than he was during a breakthrough 2012.
Imagine how good the Brewers' offense could be, manager Ron Roenicke said, if Segura and Gomez were bookending a healthy Braun, Ramirez and Hart.
"With everybody healthy, we're a good team," Roenicke said. "With the injuries that we have, we still feel like we should be playing a lot better baseball than we have been. The consistency is all over the place. From game to game, we don't know how to play."
If that sounds like a frustrating situation for a big league manager, it is.
Players to watch in second half
|Ryan Braun Between the sore right hand and the threat of suspension, there's a lot going on for the Brewers' best player.|
|Logan Schafer The more he plays, the more he produces, a good thing considering he may be needed extensively after the break|
|Wily Peralta He has the stuff to be great, and showed real signs of improvement in late June and early July.|
"At times, it's hard to watch," Roenicke said. "There's times out there where I can't believe we're playing that poorly. Thank goodness you play every day, and you don't see it the next day. That's a good thing."
Thank goodness there is more baseball to play.
"While you're going through [a challenging time], you always think it's the worst. You always lose perspective," Braun said. "I've said many, many times that a season is judged on its entirety, and it's too early to judge this season. Certainly, we have dealt with some adversity in terms of injuries. When you have your first-, second- and third-string first baseman out for the season, that's a lot.
"We've dealt with a lot of different things, but you have to look at it from a macro perspective, and I still look at some good things going on. [Segura] and Gomez have been incredible. Lucroy is back to being the guy he was. 'Yo' [Gallardo] has pitched great over games. [Kyle] Lohse has been consistent. There are some good things going on, and some key pieces in place that should allow us to get back to where we want to be, hopefully in the not-too-distant future."
In the immediate future, the Brewers' biggest unknown involves Braun, who has played all season under the threat of suspension since he was linked in February to Biogenesis, the Miami-area "wellness clinic" which allegedly supplied banned substances to some players.
Multiple reports have said MLB is planning suspensions.
Braun has stood by the emphatic declaration of innocence he made in February 2012, after successfully appealing a 50-game suspension. In his most recent comments, he said, "The truth still hasn't changed."